EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

THE THREE “R’s” IN MANITOBA – Racism, Racism, Racism

Day 108...RACISM SUCKS

I wish this story was about reading, writing and arithmetic.

But it’s not.

It’s about a serious problem in the Province of Manitoba.

Racism.

It seems racism and perceptions of racism have become major obstacles in the fight to narrow the racial divide in “not so” Friendly Manitoba.

That picture became clear after I published a story called, “RCMP Report Delivers Death Blow to Racist Ideology.”  The purpose of the story was to debunk the tired myth Police don’t give a shit when Aboriginal people get murdered.

Okay, I admit, that’s not all the story was about.

The story was also about vindication.  Vindication for Homicide investigators across the Country who’ve been targeted and labelled racists for their perceived lack of investigative interest in solving the murders of Aboriginal women.  The findings of the National RCMP report into Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women should remove any logical doubt.

The report found the murders of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal women were solved at virtually the same rate.  (88%  vs 89%)

Finally, after years of being forced to listen to repugnant racist allegations and lies, hard evidence exposes the truth.  Homicide Detectives investigate the killings of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal women with the same tenacity, dedication and commitment.  I hoped the news might provide some level of comfort to members of the Aboriginal community.

It seems I may have been wrong.

After posting the story I knew something was up when my blog stats literally exploded.

If I didn’t realize it before, viewer comments proved just how difficult it is to have a rational, respectful discussion about race in Manitoba.

“It’s obvious you’ve been infected with deep-rooted hatred and racism against the Aboriginal population of Canada,” one reader scoffed.

Another accused me of “Spewing hatred with made up twisted facts.”

Other readers suggested;

  • I was a racist
  • I hated Aboriginal women
  • I blamed the victims
  • I was part of the Colonial machine
  • I was the equivalent of a Holocaust denier

As always, I published the comments and responded with what I considered rational, fair, temperate replies.

As outrageous as the misinterpretations, misrepresentations and labels were, I still believe there is much to learn from people who have opposing views.  A conversation is something that offers all participants an opportunity to learn and grow.

So what did I learn from the vitriol and personal attacks?

  • I learned racism remains an extremely difficult, emotional topic for discussion in our Province.
  • I learned racism and perceptions of racism infect the very fabric of our society in Manitoba.
  • I learned racism and the perception of racism has the ability to distort reality.
  • I learned the word racism is “like ketchup, it can be put on practically anything but demanding evidence of it makes you racist.” (Thomas Sowell)
  • I learned confronting racism can automatically make you a racist.

After reading and responding to many of the comments I had an epiphany.

I finally get why Politicians prefer to skirt issues related to the Aboriginal Community, racism or racist perceptions.  It takes a certain amount of courage to engage in these conversations.  It concerns me that people prefer to be silent on these issues out of fear they may be tagged with the racist label when change requires strong vocal leadership.

In December last year I wrote a story that was published in the Winnipeg Free Press called, “Elusive Killers – Sex Trade Worker Slayings Not so Easy to Solve.”  The story explored the technical complexities and hardships investigators encounter when trying to solve the killings of sex trade workers.  Technical aspects like;

  • Suspect pool
  • Inability to establish victim time line
  • Inability to establish motive
  • Lack of witnesses
  • Outdoor crime scenes

The story was inspired by an Aboriginal activist who made racially divisive remarks at a local protest connected to the Missing & Murdered Women issue.  It was my attempt to provide the public with an intimate look into sex trade murder investigations by someone who had the experience required to do so.  It was an exercise to confront a widely held perception in the Aboriginal Community that these killings go unsolved because of systemic racism and lack of Police interest.

The story didn’t blame the victims, make excuses, offer apologies or explore the profound effects of Colonialism.

Yet the narrow focus of the article was completely lost on Winnipeg Free Press commenter Deanna Zantingh, a self-proclaimed masters student working in First Nations contexts who labelled me a racist, condemned the story and remarked, “Why does he never once stop and ask; How did these women get to this place of high-risk to begin with.”

Zantingh further indicated she felt, “Deep lament braided into anger and disgust,” after she read my story.

Thankfully, it wasn’t left to me to make the distinction between social work and homicide investigation for Ms Zantingh as WFP commenter Michael Melanson came to the rescue;

“The closest Jewell came to blaming the victims was suggesting their choice to enter the sex trade placed them at high risk for harm,” he wrote.

He went deeper;

“Presumably as a “masters student in First Nations contexts,” Zantingh would argue these women did not truly choose to become sex-trade workers but were rather compelled to take a tragic path as aboriginal women coming from families traumatized intergenerationally by colonialism.  Evidently, in supposing these women had a free will, Jewell is a racist. Zantingh holds that these aboriginal women were only products of their environment. The wholesale assignment of victimhood is dehumanizing and the negation of personal responsibility infantilizes the subject.”

Thank you Mr Melanson.

The tragedy in all of this is the “educated” race card players like Zantingh and the TPI commenters make it extremely difficult for a much-needed reality based conversation to take place.  After all, does anyone really want to be subjected to personal attacks or be tagged a racist?

The time has come to advance the conversation.

The RCMP report is the single most comprehensive investigative document ever created regarding the plight of Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women in our Country.

Now that these findings are known it’s time to shift our attention to a proactive strategy for drastically reducing the unacceptable statistics highlighted in the report.

The time has come for ownership and leadership.

Let’s see who wants the ball!

RELATED LINKS:

The Police Insider – RCMP Report Delivers Death Blow to Racist Ideology”

The Police Insider “Just Another Dead Indian – The Racial Divide”

The Police Insider “Elusive Killers – Sex Trade Worker Slayings Not so Easy to Solve”

RCMP National Operational Overview Report

EDITOR’S NOTE:

TPI story “Elusive Killers – Sex Trade Worker Slayings Not so Easy to Solve” was published in the WFP with the headline, “Enough with the Racist Rhetoric.”  The WFP assigns their own headlines to articles that appear in their paper.

23 Comments

  1. Just breaks my heart.

  2. Well, I have to point out that the study started in 1980 after some of the culture of police organizations changed. This was after the Betty Osborne case in The Pas, where after sixteen years the case was reopened. While the Aboriginal Justice Commission found that the “whole” town didn’t know who raped and killed her, sufficient number of people did.

    When adding domestic violence cases to the mix of homicides, the time solve rate of all homicides instantly decreases. In domestic violence cases, the first person to be investigated is the spouse. If the partner can prove with collaborating evidence non-involvement, the investigation has to widen. Murder-suicides are pretty straight-forward in perpetrator/victim are solved “pretty” quickly – unless there are suspicions the scene was staged to appear that way.

    Admittedly, there are significant numbers of domestic homicides in both the Aboriginal and Canadian communities.

    James indicated earlier the hardest homicide cases are those that involve members working in the sex trade simply because of the myriad of possibilities the investigation has to pursue. Such happens with Aboriginal women working in the sex trade as well.

    The issue of high-risk is an issue. Even today Aboriginal women with degrees are not hired for jobs and have to take jobs in questionable locations/premises, take apartments (because they can’t get rentals elsewhere) in questionable neighbourhoods, where services are poor and high in emergency calls. These factors feed into response. The famous 911 murders in Winnipeg in 2000 – the murders of Corrine McKeown and Doreen Leclair of Winnipeg’s North End are brought to mind phoning for help 5 times over eight hours. The first call was responded to but mitigated by the murderer himself.

    But adding the timeline of both types of investigations together to come up with a statistic to prove how effective investigations are is disingenuous. It is an issue requiring discussion.

    Many Aboriginal women were simply going about their lives when they disappeared. Some were children. Where I come from there are a few unsolved over the years from the 70’s until 2010.

    Even in the limited time period of the report, a minimum of 8 serial killers were in Canada. Three reportedly targeted Aboriginal women.

    Like Helen Osborne, they are in the Aboriginal person’s collective mind

  3. borealis52 >> These stats set the record straight as far as racism goes. I don’t believe racism is a factor either. I am aware Aboriginals are predisposed to the number one risk factor, poverty, by way of your Treaty with the federal gov’t. Living in poverty, without the proper supports, puts everyone at risk (non-Aboriginals too) for other risk factors like drug and alcohol use, prostitution…as stated in the original article which spurred this one. Money, or lack of it, is always a problem when it comes to funding police (wages, funding for small and large scale investigations, day to day operations, etc). Politicians have no access to any one investgation, but they DO cut the cheques that pay for policing and they DO create the laws that police officers and civilians must abide by.

    “Women did not report rapes…”

    I know. I AM one of those women. Do you know what? I’m WHITE. I’m not the only non-Aboriginal either, nor is this a Winnipeg only problem. Just ask the Elizabeth Fry Society, or the Barbara Schleffer Clinic. They know all about it, but they won’t keep actual statistics, because they just don’t have the legal clout to follow through with the fight. There are people here who claim to be advocates, but the extent of their advocacy work is limited to helping people find councelling, or emergency shelter. Victim Services? Useless…if no ones been charged.

    “Don’t tell me…preconceived notion”

    I won’t. But I will tell, you based on this report, racism is NOT a factor in how the WPS do their job. It’s not a factor here in Ontario (Toronto) either. Was it a factor back before 198_? Yes it was. After that integration (diversity) was well on it’s way for many cultures, across Canada, and there was a fair amount of culture shock. It came out of a lack of understanding (not hate or racism) between many cultures. There was what you might call a re-adjustment period for everyone involved, not just for the police. Then political correctness was born. We are constantly evolving now, and I’m not saying we don’t need tweaking here and there (the TPS has it’s strong points, but it has some glaring flaws, too, even if they think they do a good job covering it up), but wow have times changed.

    fruits_of_life >> (warm smile) I see you choosing your words very carefully; mostly in the form of a question. Questions don’t obligate you to take ownership of what’s actually on your mind. Why not just come out with it. You know you want to. I was just cutting to the chase.

    I am ALWAYS open to learning new things. Why do you think I’m here. Very interesting articles attract very interesting people with different points of view. I won’t readily agree with some things people share with me (sometimes ever), but they do go on the back burner in case I opt to change my mind (a womens perogative) at a later date.

    P.S. Lets not have a p*ssing contest over whose been traumatized the most, okay?

  4. James G Jewell

    @ borealis52

    I appreciate your thoughts and respect your opinion whether it meshes with mine or not.

    As I’ve indicated in the past, the WPS has undergone a significant cultural evolution and now reflects the face of the community more now than they ever have. You have to acknowledge and respect that evolution. The WPS today barely resembles the Organization I joined in 1987.

    The perception you have regarding the treatment of Aboriginal women was born during a different era.

    I doubt I ever worked a shift in a Police cruiser car that I didn’t get dispatched to a call where I attended to the needs of an Aboriginal women who had been victimized by domestic or other violence, was in need of medical care or some other form of social service. These women were always treated in a professional, compassionate manner.

    Your suggestion that municipal government somehow dictated investigative priorities or time spent on investigations is completely false.

    I worked in Organized Crime, Major Crime and Homicide for a total of almost 12 years.

    No one from Government ever set priorities and timelines.

    As a Supervisor in the Homicide Unit I can tell you that I set investigative priorities and timelines. No one in Government or even in the WPS hierarchy participated in these decisions.

    In terms of the race issue, you have to remember the RCMP study showed the murders of Aboriginal women were solved at essentially the same rate as the murders of non-Aboriginal women.

    That’s where the title of my story came from. Those were the statistics I referred to when I suggest the report delivered a “death blow to racist ideology.” The racist ideology I referred to was the belief that investigative indifference by Police contributed to the numbers of unsolved murders of Aboriginal women. The stats show otherwise. I hope we can agree on that.

    That was the entire thrust of my story.

  5. James G Jewell

    I don’t think I deflected anything but I have no problem being more specific for you.

    The incident I spoke of involved an off duty incident at a drinking establishment where a black Officer was offended by white Officer who dropped the “N” word. The black Officer approached me and asked me to have an informal discussion with the other Officer as he was not comfortable dealing with the issue himself. The other Officer was senior to both of us. We had a closed door conversation and the issue was dealt with.

    As far as your other questions regarding racial profiling, innocent jokes, photos, or email….

    If you are looking for some kind of racist smoking gun I can’t give it to you. As a product of a bi-racial marriage I have always been hyper sensitive to issues of race and racism. At the same time, I enjoy race based humour from ethnic comedians like Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Russell Peters. I have no specific memory of anyone making off duty race based jokes about any particular group. I wouldn’t likely remember something that was said in good humour whether you believe humour has a place in the discussion or not.

    I have never heard any comments regarding an objection to a promotion based on race. I can’t say the same for gender.

    During my time with the WPS the Organization went through somewhat of a cultural revolution. At some point the City realized the face of the Organization had to change and become more reflective of the community the Police served. Employment equity was born and might have been one of the reasons I was hired.

    The Police Service has come a long way on the cultural evolutionary scale.

    I stand by my original statement 100%.

    During my years of Police Service I never saw anyone treated poorly because of their race.

    (I did witness people calling the Police racists and using their race as an excuse many times.)

    That might be difficult for someone from a minority or marginalized group to believe but that’s the truth.

  6. fruits_of_life

    James Jewel my comment on coming across as ethnocentric, was a reply too James 2 first comment. Thanks for input though.

    James 2 now suggests a witch hunt is occurring and Shirley has come to conclusion I am part of the problem or there are specific grievances involved. No real evidence for either. James Jewel did state the time has come to advance the conversation.

    Shirley in your own words, you mentioned we are all students. Are your eyes and other’s open to other world views, personal perceptions and exposing some truths?

  7. James started the conversation saying the RCMP report was a death blow to racist ideology. I, and others happen to disagree. He has shown he can handle himself. He picked the clothes line to hang his thoughts, made them public and now has to deal with persons that disagree with him.

    Being a member of a paramilitary organization mostly teamed by Caucasian men through most of his years on the team, James was a part of an organization that in the day dealt with women, and particularly Aboriginal women, badly. Women did not report rapes or domestic abuse, because of what they endured at the hands of investigating officers.

    Aboriginal women had more reasons to stay clear because of history with the RCMP being the enforcement officers of the Indian Act and policies.

    Elected municipal officials simply wanted Aboriginals to go away. The WPS functioned as the voice of the municipal community of the day – which was “Go Away”.

    Don’t tell me the WPS (or any other policing organization) doesn’t have a preconceived notion backed by their organizational hierarchy with the full backing of the municipal government who funded them of who is priority for investigations and how much investigation time is spent on any specific call.

  8. “Really Shirley, James doesn’t need a mother, he needs a teacher.”

    Ahhhh. I see. So you’re of the mindset mothers don’t teach? Lesson number 1, we’re ALL teachers (whether the lessons are good or bad). Lesson number 2, we’re ALL students until the day we die (whether our eye’s are open or not).

    You and Fruits of Life need to stop being part of the problem. When I mentioned rhetoric, I meant 10+ persons like yourselves (in a small community) who talk about the “what if’s” in life which have no basis in reality. If you or Fruits Of Life have specific grievances pertaining to yourselves and the WPS, then I suggest you direct your comments to the appropriate individuals. That’s what a grown up would do.

  9. And I mean that to Fruits of Life.

  10. Really Shirley, James does not need a mother, he needs a teacher.

  11. So well stated with precision.

  12. Witch hunt much?

  13. You deflected a little, so I understand you correctly, in your entire police service since a recruit, field training and working the various districts, your saying you only had one incident relating to race. What did it involve ? And why only a closed door meeting ? Was this operational guidance you were providing as opposed to sharing it with professional standards?

    Additionally , to be clear no overheard “behind the blue line” jokes or “after shift ” drinks with colleagues where the dialogue was free flowing & out of the general public earshot or view , which others may have felt was innocent in nature toward a specific group of people ? No perceived innocent funny jokes about mannerism of a specific group of people ? No racial profiling ? No precieved prejudicial views? it may not have been said in front of anyone from the general public, just kept behind the blue line amoung colleagues, close friends or in an small office environment or perhaps cell block , no photos or jokes shared on police email amoung your blue line colleagues ? No stories or rumors of the pink bunny outfit used by the police service for street justice ? No over heard comments about how others may have precieved a colleague promotion or recruitment based on ethniticity ? No Lera or proffesional standards investigation resulting in providing operational guidance on complains that were founded based on an officers behavior as it relates to his or her view toward a specific group ? You never heard of any of this during your entire service ???

  14. James G Jewell

    Thank you for adding to the conversation.

    Some great points to consider.

  15. James G Jewell

    I think you misinterpreted my point.

    “James” shared a personal experience and I did in return. I’m not sure how you conclude I was trying to justify my point based on race. I never even mentioned race. The point was about ownership and responsibility.

    I’m also not sure if you were suggesting I put labels on people and painted groups with the same brush or not or maybe you were speaking in general terms.

    I certainly never painted any group of people with the same brush.

    I get your point on world views and personal perceptions.

    We are all influenced by our life experiences to suggest we’re not would be folly.

  16. James G Jewell

    In all of my years of Police Service I only dealt with one race related issue with another Officer. It required a closed door meeting and some blunt dialogue.

    Whether people are inclined to believe it or not, Police in Winnipeg generally treat people like people. I never saw anyone treated poorly because of their race. Of course, I did see people get pepper sprayed, punched, tasered etc….these people might have you believe their race was a contributing factor when in reality it was their behaviour that determined how they were treated.

    Thank you for commenting.

  17. I find it interesting how you choose to end your comment or justify your point based on race and in an environment your were raised in, which comes across as ethnocentric. This may or may not have been your intent, but I would suggest it is difficult for you because you may not understand how your own perceptional screens have or continue to impact on your world view . It might also explain how you can perceive how labels are attached to an entire ethnic or racial group of people, when not knowing anything about them other than what you are exposed too and are able to paint them all with the same brush.

  18. Fruits of life

    It would be interesting to know with all your policing experience since you joined with Winnipeg police if you have ever encountered police colleagues with bias, prejudicial or racist attitudes and what did you do to curve these behaviors?. It maybe when when discreetly discussing language, mannerism or social differences or just plain frustration with a specific group of people or perhaps you may have felt a promotion wasn’t justified based on ethnicity..

  19. I think, eventually, you’ll realize, their pain and their reactions to your articles have nothing to do with you, James. When people suffer loss through criminal activity, it’s tramatizing. When people (advocates too) discuss their loss it’s normal for them to lash out. When they’re in this heightened state, it makes it next to impossible for them to interpret (or hear) the information (the message) in the spirit it was given. They can’t hear you yet James, or feel your heart, but if they stick around long enough, perhaps they will. Hang in there James. It gets easier. I promise.

    James (the other James) > Not everyone has access to good parenting growing up, or a solid community environment, and kids and teenagers don’t choose poverty, their parents or their communities. Once life lessons have been taught (from a young age) and then re-enforced by an entire community, it can be difficult to change, especially if the rhetoric is around them constantly. I totally agree with you that focusing on blame is a waste of time. Focusing on problems (rather than solutions) also wastes needless energy and valuable time. Change is 100% possible with the proper supports (funding, education, peer support). The community just needs to step up, and I’m hoping they would LET people, not just aboriginals, help them.

  20. James G Jewell

    I grew up in a hundred year old farm house that had a one foot thick wall of frost in my bedroom in the winter…

    We didn’t have much but we did have food on the table.

    At one point I decided to take ownership and responsibility for my lot in life and started making the changes I needed to make to set out on a positive and rewarding path.

    Ownership and Responsibility can go a long way to fix many problems.

    Thank you for commenting.

  21. What has often baffled me is that any given group of any ethnic origin who would chose to label another as racist usually will chosoe to point out their own ethnic background, and how or why it is not recognized as equal, while in the same breath labelling another group as racist for noting the same points.
    That said, I also believe that until any given group or individual stops blaming the issue of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, crime, etc. on their Race with factors derived from any given past policy, regime, government or outside intervention and actually make the decision to change their situation through education hard work and determination they will continue to propegate the stigma or labels assigned to that ethnic or racial origin. We all have free will, we all can decide to live in poverty, use drugs, prostitue ourselves or otherwise demean our selves, but by the same free will we can chose to excel, be great, contribute. Just my opinion…….but what do I know, I’m just a white guy who grew up in Mobile home in a small rural town with no future but decided to join the Army, get educated then find a meaningful career.

  22. James G Jewell

    I found the link on the RCMP website…. http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.pdf

  23. Can you link the report?

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